ocated in Southeast Florida, in Miami-Dade County on the Miami River, between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean, the City of Miami is a major center and a leader in tourism, finance, commerce, culture, media, entertainment and the arts.
Known as the “Magic City”, Miami’s beaches, buzzing nightlife and the insistent rhythm of Cuban culture have electrified this culturally diversified city. South Beach is a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels.
It is also a magnet for celebrity-watchers, but beyond the glamour, there are many attractions (such as the Art Deco District, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and Miami Seaquarium) that provide a glimpse into this city’s historic past, dazzling present and passionate future.
PLACES TO VISIT
n 1979, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943. Mediterranean, Streamline Modern and Art Deco are all represented in the District. The Historic District is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the East, Lenox Court on the West, 6th Street on the South and Dade Boulevard along the Collins Canal to the North. The movement to preserve the Art Deco District’s architectural heritage was led by former interior designer Barbara Capitman, who now has a street in the District named in her honor.
Developed by George Edgar Merrick during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, and home to many large and beautiful mansions, Coral Gables was one of the first planned communities, and prefigured the development of the gated community and the home- owners association. The city’s architecture is almost entirely Mediterranean Revival Style. Some of the homes, or portions of their structures, have been created from coral rock and shells. The Biltmore Hotel is also filled with history.
In both daytime and at nightfall, the South Beach section of Miami Beach is immensely popular with both American and international tourists, with some having permanent or second homes. The large number of European tourists also explains their influence on a lax and overall tolerance of the female monokini (topless sunbathing) in spite of being a public beach. This is Miami’s uncontested nightlife hub, with restaurants, bars and clubs featuring fashionably late hours of operation, an electrifying atmosphere and a flourishing gay and lesbian community.
Little Havana is home to many Cuban immigrant residents, as well as many residents from Central and South America, and named after the capital and largest city in Cuba. Noted as a center of social, cultural, and political activity, it is also known for its land- marks, including Calle Ocho and its Walk of Fame (for famous artists and Latin per- sonalities, including Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, and Gloria Estefan). It is undoubtedly the best known neighborhood for Cuban exiles in the world.
mong the hustle and bustle of Miami’s ever-growing metropolis sits a laid-back, waterfront community unlike any other. Nestled between Biscayne Bay and Highway U.S. 1, Coconut Grove is a village-within-a-city, and the oldest modern continuous- ly-inhabited neighborhood of Miami, offering visitors a unique alternative experience to the standard South Florida visit. With everything from gallery walks and outdoor dining, to sailing regattas and wacky festivals, there are endless activities. Shopping is centered at CocoWalk, a lovely outdoor Mediterranean-style mall with the usual fare of Americana: Gap, Victoria’s Secret, and so on.
Founded in 1955, The Miami Seaquarium is the oldest oceanarium in the United States, located on the island of Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay. In addition to marine mammals, the Miami Seaquarium houses fish, sharks, sea turtles, birds, reptiles, and manatees. The park offers daily presentations and hosts overnight camps, events for boy scouts, and group programs. Over 500,000 people visit the facility annually.
Villa Vizcaya is the former villa and estate of businessman James Deering, of the Deering McCormick-International Harvester fortune, on Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove neighborhood. The early 20th century Vizcaya estate also includes: extensive Italian Renaissance gardens; native woodland landscape; and a historic village out- buildings compound. The landscape and architecture were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style, with Baroque elements.
A trip to the Miami area isn’t complete without a stop in Key Biscayne, an exclusive island town considered to be one of the most exclusive communities in South Florida, just a short – and gorgeous – drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway from the big city. From sunny beaches to the Ritz-Carlton resort, Key Biscayne offers all the allure of South Florida on a tiny sliver of land. Key Biscayne has terrific beaches and the added appeal of being sandwiched between two major parks – Crandon Park to the north and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park to the south. Key Biscayne also offers a nearby coastal barrier reef and the only federally recognized underwater archaeologi- cal trail in the United States.
WHAT TO WEAR
South Florida has a tropical climate. Hot and humid in Summer (June through Sep- tember), when you will need abundance of sun screen lotion and your swimsuit! However keep in mind that some months can be pretty chilly. I once ventured to Miami in December during Miami Art Basel and the temperature was 10-16 Centigrade. Bring a sweater. Also remember that between June and September it is Hurricane season, always check local weather news.
WHAT TO SEE
South Beach is not to be missed but it is not Miami’s only interesting area. You should see Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, Little Havana and Coral Gable.
Wynwood, also known as Little San Juan for its strong Puerto Rican population, is a neighborhood of Miami famous for its art galleries, graffiti and design stores. On the second Saturday of each month takes place an ‘Art Walk’ that draws scores of mostly local young, hipsters and alternative types. The art district is home to several art spots (Museums and Galleries).
Sadly, Labor Day weekend has become famous –rather infamous- in recent years for the extreme parties held around the city. Perhaps a period when we do not recom- mend a visit.
The best shopping in Florida is probably in Orlando but if you are in Miami you can visit Bal Harbour Shops located at 9700 Collins Ave | Bal Harbour | (305) 866-0311